Firstly, a huge thank you to my two beta readers, Terri and Riventhorn. These two lovely ladies have guided me and have been really terrific at offering their advice and thoughts to this first chapter. So, ladies, I thank you!
Secondly, it's been a really good experience to write the first chapter of my first ever Merlin fic, and I hope you've really enjoyed reading it. Please, if you could spare a few more minutes and just review what you've read, that would be brilliant! I'm really interested in finding out what all of you have thought!
Thirdly, this story will be based on the lyrics from Pink's brilliant song, Glitter in the Air, which is why the story is called Glitter in the Air. The song lyrics will come in use later on, so you have to keep reading to find out what happens!
Before I forget, there is a little bit of guy/guy slashy goodness in this chapter. Nothing major, but if slash is one thing that you don't like, I've warned you now! Now, enough of my ramblings! On with the reading!
The mid-August morning dawned, sunny and beautiful. Just like every other servant, Merlin was already wide awake and ready for the day ahead. In fact, he had a few rare minutes before breakfast to look out his window at the people below, who were hurrying about their morning business. The men and women went to and fro, quickly sidestepping each other at the last moment to avoid head-on collisions. Merlin smiled at some of the men who caught sight of one of the hurrying women, and then promptly walked into a wall or wooden post because they hadn't paid attention to where they were going. He suddenly spotted a flash of fiery red hair and realised it was Owen, on a collision course with a group of knights because he couldn't see past the big stack of armour he was carrying. With a flurry of words, and the tell-tale gold circling his eyes, Merlin magically nudged Owen over just in time. An inch to the left and he would have been thrown in the stocks for not watching where he was going.
Owen towered over Merlin, his broad shoulders and shapely muscles a sharp contrast to Merlin's much slimmer frame. When Merlin had first met Owen, he had already begun to realise that he was attracted to men in a way that he never could be with women. It was a somewhat painful epiphany, for the man Merlin had fallen for was out of his reach. Just hearing—thinking—his name made Merlin's heart skip a beat: Arthur. Arthur Pendragon. Over the past six months, Merlin's respect for Arthur had turned to love. He was superior to everyone else in Merlin's eyes. Just watching Arthur flirting with the ladies of the court made Merlin ache with jealousy. Arthur was smart, funny, caring, reliable...and the most annoying prat that had ever graced the Earth. There were times over the last six months that Merlin had wanted to declare his love for Arthur—to shout it out without caring who heard him. But then there were times Merlin just wanted to lock Arthur in the stocks for once and throw rotten fruit and vegetables in his face. That's love though, Merlin thought, smiling. One minute you want to hug them, the next minute, you wish they were covered in rotten tomatoes.
Yet for obvious reasons, he couldn't tell Arthur that he was in love with him, and when Owen had joined the ranks of servants six weeks ago, as manservant for Sir Galahad, the attraction he felt for Owen had been a welcome distraction from pining for Arthur. He and Owen hadn't done much—just a quick kiss and fumble here and there. Part of Merlin was glad. The foolish part that entertained the notion that he could save himself for Arthur—that Arthur would be the first one he was with in that way. Anyway, he rarely got to spend any time alone with Owen because Arthur was in one of his legendary bad moods. No one, including Merlin, had any idea why Arthur was so upset, but it meant Merlin barely had time to eat and sleep, what with all the chores Arthur piled on him, let alone do anything else. So, in the mornings, he woke early just so he could catch a glimpse of Owen. Merlin smiled as he watched Owen rush on towards the castle, and grudgingly pulled himself away from the window.
As he turned away, his eyes fell upon the letter he had received from his mother late last night. He had just returned from mucking out the stables and grooming Arthur's horses—for the second time that day—covered in mud and who knew what else, when Owen had arrived to drop off the letter for him. Merlin blushed slightly as he remembered Owen handing him the letter, and their fingers brushing against each other. Owen's eyes had locked onto Merlin's, and everything seemed to go silent as the memory of the few moments they had snatched behind the stables that afternoon returned. They had only been kissing for a few minutes before Arthur had stormed around the corner, demanding to know why his armour wasn't polished as he had asked. Luckily, Merlin had pushed Owen away quickly enough that Arthur hadn't caught them doing anything, but for a brief moment, Merlin thought he saw a flash of pain in Arthur's eyes. Whatever emotion it was had quickly vanished, and Merlin had been promptly shoved into the stables to clean and groom the horses. So, when Owen came by that evening, they exchanged quick smiles and hushed whispers, promising to see each other in the morning. Merlin had closed the door behind him with the letter in hand and met Gaius's questioning look.
Merlin didn't need to ask Gaius what was bothering the old physician. The week before, Gaius had walked into Merlin's room unannounced and discovered Owen pinning Merlin onto the bed, both of them flushed and dishevelled. Merlin hadn't intended for Gaius to find out about his feelings for Owen—and men in general—in that way, and since then, Gaius had assumed a grim, tight-lipped expression whenever Owen was around. With Merlin, Gaius acted as though he had seen nothing, but when Merlin tried to talk about that night, Gaius quickly found some sort of work to do.
Avoiding Gaius's questioning glance, Merlin had hurried to his room, holding the unopened letter. It's not like Owen forced me to do anything, Merlin had thought as he closed his bedroom door. I'm a grown man; I can do whatever I want. Yet what Gaius thought meant a great deal to Merlin, and he didn't like it when Gaius disapproved of things that he did. But you can't help who you're attracted to. If only he knew of my feelings for Arthur—that would really send him over the edge. He had run his hand through his dark mop of hair wearily and sat down on the bed to open his mother's letter. Running his finger under the wax seal, Merlin broke it and unfolded the letter, written in his mother's neat handwriting.
The time has come for you to take part in the Festival of Innocence, which is held each year in Ealdor for boys and girls such as yourself. The Festival will begin on the 15th of this month and will culminate in an evening to remember for the rest of your life. There are already some Festival goers from neighbouring villages who have expressed interest towards you already, and I have great hopes that you will find your life partner here. I do hope that you will be able to come home for the Festival.
The fifteenth—that's only two days away, Merlin had thought and then pushed the contents of the letter from his mind. Arthur wouldn't be there, and...well, Merlin didn't want to think about it.
Now, as his eyes rested on the letter, Merlin felt a swirl of trepidation again. Merlin quickly grabbed it and pushed it underneath the thin mattress of his bed. Can't let anyone see this, Merlin thought and raced out of his room. Gaius was already up and was pouring thick, yellow syrup into a small vial. Putting a cork stopper into the vial, Gaius stepped in front of Merlin.
"You need to give this to Arthur," Gaius instructed. "Apparently, he's been irritable and out of sorts for the last six weeks. Perhaps you've noticed? I personally think he's just being Arthur, but the king wants me to give him something in case it's more serious." Merlin took the vial and wrinkled his nose at the smell emanating from the cork. "He needs to take a small sip every time he feels a mood swing coming on."
"You want me to tell Arthur that he has to take this because he's been acting moody?" Merlin asked and tucked the vial into a breeches pocket. "That'll go down well."
"Just tell him that I said he must take this medicine every time he feels anxious or unsettled. Now you better go and fetch his breakfast so he stays in a good mood."
Merlin's face lit up at the prospect of cheering Arthur up, and gave Gaius a bright smile and nod of the head. Saying goodbye over his shoulder as he went out, Merlin trotted down the winding staircase leading down from their rooms. Although the sun was barely over the horizon, Merlin could feel the heat already crawling across his skin as he made his way down the stone stairs to access the main court yard. Shouts and cries echoed up from market sellers, trying to sell their wares before the bargain hunters surfaced for the day.
As Merlin walked into the fresh morning air, a cool breeze began to blow; a good omen, Merlin thought. Maybe it indicated a change was coming, being carried along on the breeze. So Arthur's having mood swings? Merlin began plotting the many ways he could make fun of the Prince of Camelot before being thrown in the stocks. Although it would certainly explain why I've had more work to do than usual. He dashed down to the kitchens to get Arthur's breakfast, and then carried the silver tray up the servants' stairs at the back of the castle. The smell coming from the sausages and bacon on the plate made Merlin's stomach growl with hunger and his mouth water. As he stepped out into the corridor leading to Arthur's chambers, Merlin nearly dropped the tray of food as he walked straight into Owen.
"Owen?! What are you doing up here?" Merlin asked, making sure everything was accounted for on the tray before offering a smile. His breeches grew tight as other parts of him welcomed Owen's appearance.
"I wanted to make sure that everything was all right. You did get a letter from your mother after all," Owen answered simply.
"Oh, yeah, everything's fine. She just wanted me to come home for a visit, that's all," Merlin explained, and felt a firm hand on his elbow, guiding him down the passage and into one of the stock rooms that housed cleaning items. "What are we doing in here?"
Owen looked at Merlin before taking the tray of food and placing it down onto a side table. Merlin quickly caught on to what Owen was thinking, and smiled as the taller man stepped in closer to him. Owen ducked his head, and Merlin felt hot lips slide onto his own. Inhaling a breath and letting his hand drift up to the back of Owen's head, Merlin pulled his friend closer. Their tongues slid against each other, causing both men to squirm and utter soft moans of pleasure. Merlin could feel Owen's hard length poking him in the thigh and knew Owen felt Merlin's arousal as well. Owen let a hand drift down to Merlin's hip. As much as Merlin wanted to please Owen, he quickly moved the hand upwards, and Owen pulled back.
"We can't. Especially when I'm a few doors away from Arthur's room with his breakfast. What if he walked in on us?" Merlin asked, breathing hard.
Owen's eyes narrowed at the mention of Arthur's name. "Arthur? Why would he come in here? You think he'd suddenly fancy cleaning his chambers? He's never done an honest day's work in his life! Why, he'd probably whine like the child that he is if the idea was ever suggested to him," Owen retorted, and then stumbled back in surprise at the small push Merlin gave him.
"Arthur's a good man, Owen. He's done a lot more for the people of Camelot than they'll ever know. You have no right to talk about him like that!" Merlin protested, his eyes darkening with annoyance. He pushed past Owen and picked up the cold tray of food as he opened the door. As he stepped over the threshold, Owen called out to him.
"Then maybe you should ask him to kiss you, Merlin! If you think so highly of him. Not that he'd stoop to touching you."
With that, Merlin began to walk quickly down the hall, and he knocked on the door to Arthur's room and walked in. As usual, Arthur was buried underneath the blankets with an arm stretched across the vast mattress. A tuft of blonde hair poked out at the top of the bed, and as Merlin sat the tray down on the large table in the centre of the room, the prince began to stir. The outstretched arm pushed the top blanket down, and a groggy looking Arthur squinted over at Merlin, who proceeded to walk across to the heavy draped curtains. A small growl came from Arthur, and the prince quickly threw the covers back over his head as glaringly bright sunlight poured into his room. Merlin pulled back the drapes and fastened them with the thick gold chord that hung from the wall, and then he moved to get Arthur's clothes ready for the morning.
"I should have you thrown in the stocks," Arthur grumbled as he slowly resurfaced and rubbed his face.
"You wouldn't do that," Merlin stated, and pulled out two pairs of soft leather breeches, before deciding that the black ones would match Arthur's current mood. "You'd miss me and my witty charm."
"Don't be so sure."
Merlin pulled a face and carried on raiding Arthur's wardrobe to find one of the tunics that the prince seemed to be favouring at the moment. It was a deep red colour, with golden stitches detailing a dragon on the back right shoulder. Merlin had given it to Arthur and still felt both embarrassed and happy, remembering what had happened. He had been—attempting—to wash one of Arthur's tunics and accidentally dipped it in a vat of dye instead of the wash water. The tunic had been completely ruined, and Merlin hadn't been able to stand the thought of Arthur scolding and teasing him about it, calling him an idiot. He so wanted Arthur's trust and affection, but all Arthur ever saw was the bumbling servant.
So Merlin had gone out and commissioned a new tunic, hoping Arthur wouldn't notice the loss of his old one. He had meant the new one to be exactly like the old but had found himself asking the tailor to add on the dragon. It was stupid, but Merlin had suddenly thought of all the fine, rich things Arthur possessed—his clothes, his jewels, his weapons—and realized that they were all completely impersonal. They were either heirlooms or had been made for the prince. Merlin wondered if anyone had ever given Arthur anything just because he was Arthur. And so Merlin had the dragon sewn onto the tunic, because he wanted Arthur to have it.
Of course, Arthur had noticed the new tunic and asked about it.
"I had it made for you because I ruined your old one," Merlin had muttered.
Arthur called him an idiot then, and disparaged Merlin's taste in clothes, but Merlin noticed that Arthur was fingering the soft fabric, and then he smiled in a way that Merlin had never seen before. Even thinking about it now made Merlin smile. After that, he had started "accidentally" ruining more of Arthur's tunics and spending most of his money on buying new tunics for Arthur, just so he could see that smile again. Arthur had teased him mercilessly about his incompetence, but he had still smiled and worn the new tunics. Now, a frown crawled across Merlin's face as he stopped rummaging through the wardrobe because none of the tunics he had given to Arthur were there.
"Arthur, where've you put the tunics that I bought you?" Merlin asked, and turned around to put the leather trousers onto the bed. He noticed Arthur had gotten up, blanket wrapped around him, and was sitting down in front of the food on the table. He pushed the sausages tentatively with his fork, almost as though they were going to jump out and attack him. "What are you doing?" Merlin asked, trying not to sound fond.
"Seeing if I can find one piece of warm food, because apparently, my manservant thinks I prefer cold food," Arthur answered, narrowing his eyes as he looked up at Merlin. "You have five seconds to get out of my room and fetch me some fresh, hot food, before I throw you in the stocks and then the dungeon for the evening. One... two..."
Merlin was out the door before the count of three.
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